Written answers

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Social Welfare Code

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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246. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if her Department has systems for identifying and supporting more vulnerable carers, such as older parents caring for ageing children with disabilities, in order that extra supports could be developed in partnership with other Government agencies. [13553/24]

Photo of Heather HumphreysHeather Humphreys (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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The Government acknowledges the valuable role that family carers play and is fully committed to supporting carers in that role. This commitment is recognised in both the Programme for Government and the National Carers’ Strategy.

The main income supports to carers provided by my department are Carer’s Allowance, Carer’s Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and the Carer’s Support Grant. Spending on these payments is expected to amount to over €1.7 billion this year.

Since my appointment as Minister, I have made a number of improvements in the social welfare system to enhance the supports available for all our carers. These have included: -

  • An increase of €150 to the annual Carer’s Support Grant bringing it to €1,850, the highest level since its introduction.
  • The weekly rates of Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit have cumulatively increased by €29 over the last three Budgets.
Specifically with regard to Carer’s Allowance, I am the first Minister since 2007 to make changes to the means test: -
  • In June 2022 the income disregards were increased from €332.50 to €350 for a single person, and from €665 to €750 for carers with a spouse/partner.
  • The capital and savings disregard for the means assessment for Carer’s Allowance was increased from €20,000 to €50,000, aligning it with the capital means test for Disability Allowance.
  • As part of Budget 2024, the weekly income disregard will be further increased from €350 to €450 for a single person, and from €750 to €900 for carers with a spouse/partner.
In terms of acknowledging the role of older carers, my department makes a number of targeted provisions in terms of its payments, for example:-
  • where a carer is aged 66 or over the weekly rate is €286, some €36.00 higher than the rate for a carer under 66.
  • where a carer is providing full time care and attention to another person (whilst also meeting all other conditions for Carer’s Allowance) and they also meet the qualifying conditions for another social welfare payment for example the State Pension they may apply for the other payment and and half-rate Carer's Allowance.
In addition, one of the key landmark pension reform measures I introduced from January this year is to enhance State Pension provision for people who have been caring for incapacitated dependents for 20 years or more. It will do this by attributing the equivalent of paid contributions to long-term carers to cover gaps in their contribution record. In implementing this reform I was particularly conscious of carers who have been unable to work and have been caring for their child with a disability through childhood and now into adulthood.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to keep the range of income supports available to family carers under review to ensure they meet their stated objectives.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.


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